Captivated by Indonesia
Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By SFO Base Technician James Hoang
For most of us, there are always wonderful reasons to go on an adventure. For me, it's appreciating the ancient temples, hiking the vast trails in a lush green forest, experiencing the sight of the unpredictable volcanoes, walking along the beautiful sandy beaches and gazing at the crystal clear-blue ocean. But most of all, my greatest adventure was spending time with my good friend Rista, who is a native of Jakarta, Indonesia.
My Indonesia journey began in mid-February of this year. Traveling to Jakarta took me almost 20 hours of flight time. I flew from San Francisco International Airport to Singapore International Airport. The first city I visited was Yogyakarta. Even though I was exhausted from traveling, I was too overjoyed upon arriving in this amazing place to sleep. Yogyakarta is an extremely peaceful and serene town, far from the hustle and bustle of city life that Jakarta possesses, and it is not as crowded and as touristy as the world-famous Bali, either.
Yogyakarta, or Jogya for short, is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia with many historical buildings and monuments. There are two very famous and must-see ancient temples, Borobudur and Prambanan, which have made the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I was excited to visit the Prambanan Temple, especially with the help of my friend/tour guide Daniel, who showed me around. The Prambanan temple is as magnificent as I could have ever imagined. I was captivated by its beauty. It is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It is best described by its tall and pointed typical Hindu architecture, standing at 47 meters high (154 feet). Prambanan attracts many visitors from around the world. Exploring the temple left me in complete awe and wanting to see more. I had forgotten all about the heat of the sun because Prambanan had taken my breath away.
My first dinner was at a local Indonesian restaurant. I enjoyed sitting at the Indonesian-inspired table— short-legged table and comfortable cushioned seats where I had wonderful conversations with my friends throughout our meal. I had so much fun and experienced mouth-watering dishes I'd never tasted. The desserts and durians were heavenly.
My next destination was Borobodur, where I stayed at a cozy hotel. The Borobudur Temple is known for its magical sunrise. One should make sure to witness its beauty. For the next couple of days, I had the great privilege of exploring an old, sleepy village nearby and experiencing their way of life. The village has been around for hundreds of years and, to this day, the people of that small village still maintain their traditions. For example, the town is known for making batik, an Indonesian fabric with unique designs that are drawn by hand. It takes several weeks to create intricate designs, which are then dipped into colorful dyes made from leaves, roots, tree barks or seeds from various local trees. I have so much respect and admiration for these artists, who have preserved their ancient art traditions. I also had a chance to visit the rice paddies. I was able to learn how rice was harvested in the old-fashioned way, as well as how the rice was cleaned and processed by the hands of the hardworking, yet so cheerful, women.
After a long goodbye to the new friends I made, it was off to Lombok, an old fishing town. It has beautiful beaches where you can walk all day long or sit and admire the sunset. Colorful painted fishing boats surround the area. You can take these boats to the Gili Islands, an archipelago of three small islands. There are also other ways to go sightseeing around town -- you can ride on a horse-drawn wagon, ride a bicycle or get around by foot.
Hiking in the lush, green jungle was one of the best experiences. I was amused by the monkeys that accompanied me along the trails and, at the same time, waited for treats. I was able to go behind the powerful waterfalls, which is one experience most of us don't get the chance to do.
Indonesia was such a great travel experience for me and I will carry the memories with me forever. I have made great friends with the native Muslims there, who are lovely and kind-hearted people, making Indonesia a country worth visiting again and again. I also want to thank my friend Rista, who showed me around the country and gave me the opportunity to experience the peaceful and loving Indonesians.
Adventures are the best way to learn. They leave you speechless, and then turn you into a storyteller. I encourage my fellow travelers to explore this place whenever they get the chance.
"Travel changes you. As you move through this life…you leave marks behind, however small and in return, life and travel leaves marks on you." -- (Anthony Bourdain).
And as Mark Twain would put it: Explore. Dream. Discover.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.